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Ok. I searched first, and I read through a pile of the questions presented with similar titles to this one, but I just didn't spot one that seemed to ask what I'm asking now. It relates to this question in getting people to pay attention to How to Ask... and I'm sure that I'm not the only person who wants some way to get people to revise or update their question with more relevant information... because of the comments I see.

But there has got to be a better way to get people to clarify their questions, or include more relevant information. In some cases, I've put a comment in the question asking for more information minutes after they ask... they've got to get the notification, yet they ignore it. Yes, I realize that downvoting the question because it is unclear, or closing the question because it is to vague is not only an option but Standard Operating Procedure... but does that really help people looking for an answer?

I get it. There has to be a line between holding someone's hand throughout the whole process, and getting them to help themselves while we help them. Hell, I'm still a n00b here... I've not gotten my sea legs yet and I've never been known as a "people person". But is there some way of inserting a specific kind of notification... an intermediate step between a comment/answer and just closing the question... an addition to the flags that when a moderator sees it, they trip the notification to the user to add the requested information if they want an answer?

Not only how do you get people to pay attention to "How to Ask"... how do we get people to help us help them?

(Man, I don't know how to tag)

  • I agree with you 100% (Then again, I wrote the post you linked to). I think it would be great to have a special notification or banner. Maybe one that doesn't go away until they edit their post? – iglvzx May 6 '12 at 6:50
  • Put an arm bar on them, or waterboarding ;;-) – Moab Jun 10 '12 at 15:07
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I realize that downvoting the question because it is unclear, or closing the question because it is to vague is not only an option but Standard Operating Procedure... but does that really help people looking for an answer?

Remember that in essence, this is the only kind of feedback we've got. It's often not as bad as you put it. Here on Super User, we don't even have that many people who actively moderate and cast Not a real question close votes. In fact, people don't even downvote as much as the system would allow them to. Since downvotes on questions are free (i.e. don't reduce your reputation), it's even encouraged to downvote more (emphasis mine):

We feel that the world is awash in questions, but not answers. Answers are the real unit of work in any Q&A system. Therefore, the only logical thing to do is to maximize the happiness and enjoyment of answerers. If this means aggressively downvoting or closing unworthy and uninteresting questions, so be it. Without a community of people willing to answer questions, it really doesn’t matter if there are questions at all, does it?

Of course it's not exactly helpful for people just looking for an answer. But that is not what the site is about. We don't want to encourage people posting vague questions with no intention to do a little research themselves or even look after their posts. If these questions get downvoted and closed, so be it. We also don't want to feed help vampires.

There are enough users who take downvotes/closed questions as an opportunity to learn how to use the site and learn how to help themselves. I honestly have to say, I don't feel sorry for those who don't. Vague questions are a waste of everyone's time – asking for clarification, editing posts, voting, closing, reopening, all the fuss that comes with that.

If you get a few questions closed, then you should really start thinking about how do better approach your problem solving strategy. Often – and simply just because they don't want to be downvoted or have their questions closed again – people actually start helping themselves. And once we have enough information to work with, this is where this community can shine: by providing awesome answers.


Not only how do you get people to pay attention to "How to Ask"... how do we get people to help us help them?

The same like we've always done. People need to harden up and cast downvotes if they think a question is missing information or the OP has not tried to explain clearly. Of course, you should leave a comment asking for clarification. Many first-time askers don't know where to look and they really shouldn't get comments like:

This question is too vague.

But rather:

-1, this question is too vague. What is your operating system? What did you do when you fooed the bar? Is your yak turned on? Please [edit] your question to include this and that, otherwise we can't really help you.

This is nudging them in the right direction but still giving them an incentive to fix their question.

  • 3
    Regarding the last suggestion, it's appropriate to check up on the question later to see whether it was improved, and if so, undo the downvote (and maybe even upvote it). – Daniel Beck May 6 '12 at 11:00
  • Hard love. Got it. And I have to agree as well that when I feel compelled to ask for more information, it should be accompanied by a downvote. – Bon Gart May 6 '12 at 13:29
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    I guess so, at least in those cases where you really feel the OP hasn't even tried to be as specific as possible.@bon – slhck May 6 '12 at 13:36
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    amen about the downvotes and the last few lines. – Sathyajith Bhat May 6 '12 at 14:28
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    I wasn't even aware that downvotes on questions are free (now). I like it. But I still prefer to only downvote when a question is so bad I feel scammed out of my life time for reading it. Giving upvotes feels better. – Der Hochstapler May 6 '12 at 22:36
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    Sure, that's everyone's own decision! You definitely should not be running around down voting everything, and I agree it looks negative, but it's a really good way of saying, hey something's not right here ;) @oli – slhck May 6 '12 at 22:48
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    so thats what i've been doing wrong. Never turning on my yak ;p – Journeyman Geek May 12 '12 at 12:10
  • Downvote "this question does not show Any research effort; it is unclear or not useful" says it all. – Moab Jun 10 '12 at 15:04
  • @Moab Yeah, but adding a comment explaining why is always nice. – slhck Jun 10 '12 at 15:18
5

My personal opinion is that the tag wikis are not pushed hard enough (and this is across ALL the stack sites). If I had the time and the knowledge, I'd go through the tags and add a section marked

This is what we need to know in order to answer your question

with relevant log file locations, debugging options, etc. Consider, for instance, the plethora of "my page loads slow :(" posts on serverfault. Almost none of them provide server configuration, any kind of page load profile from either a browser plugin or web-based profiler, or any logging information at all until they're prodded by the rest of us to reveal what they know (and then it turns out the very top of the page is a javascript banner ad from some ad network with nasty connection problems).

Then the Ask a Question page should be changed so that along with the instructions for entering tags it mentions that many of the tags have instructions about logs and other information that should be provided so that the internet can help you. It can then mention that the questioner can click the tag to open the wiki in a new window and read those instructions before posting the question.

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    Yeah, it'd definitely help to get some better tag wikis altogether. It's gonna be hard to motivate people though to read them if they just want "real" help by posting their question. Like your last suggestion though. – slhck May 12 '12 at 17:32
3

In some cases, I've put a comment in the question asking for more information minutes after they ask... they've got to get the notification, yet they ignore it.

When I originally registered on this site, I thought it was a forum. Where you write a question, and come back the next day or check your mail to see if someone bothered to answer.

SE sites are different. It's almost like, either you get an answer in the first hour or you won't get one at all.

I don't think most new users are familiar with that concept.

This can be very frustrating when you're trying to help a user, especially if, when they finally add the information, they don't @notify you...

I wasn't going anywhere with this, it was just too long for a comment :-P

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    Yeah, it can be frustrating to have to favorite questions and check yourself whether there was an update. But there's just no good mechanism other than posting redundant "@Oliver, I updated the question" comments all over the place. I always hope new users get the gist and be as specific as possible from the start, or at least after a few questions and spending time browsing the site. – slhck May 6 '12 at 22:24
  • I don't depend on @ notifications, I bookmarked my user page with the "responses" >"All" tabs highlighted, check that page regularly. – Moab May 15 '12 at 0:17
  • @Moab: Good idea. Thanks. – Der Hochstapler May 15 '12 at 8:37

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